The Bundesliga has seen the most goals across Europe’s five major leagues over the last 20 years; Germany are the defending world champions; The youth academy system is the envy of world football, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows…
1) Stefan Effenberg
For every Arjen Robben or Marco Reus lifting fans off their seats in ecstasy, there has been more than the odd equivalent of Vinnie Jones or Roy Keane getting onlookers on their feet for rather different reasons. bundesliga.com trains its microscope on the Top 5 bad boys to have “graced” the division…
Who else could lead a list like this?! While there is zero question that Effenberg remains one of Germany’s greatest midfielders – he led Bayern to the double of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League in 2001 – he was the epitome of genius dipping into madness sometimes. Der Tiger got his teeth into more than a few opponents, ending an otherwise glittering career with a record 114 yellow cards to his name. No other player has reached triple digits.
4) Mark van Bommel
In 2011, he was sent off after an unnecessary foul outside the box on Thomas Müller, which was made worse by the fact that they were teammates on the German national team. After retiring from football in 2014, Wiese began preparations to enter the ring in a different sport, literally. Under the nickname “The Machine”, Wiese became a professional wrestler and made his WWE debut in November 2016. Since retiring from football, the former keeper has gained a reported 60 pounds of lean muscle mass so he certainly looks the part should the wrestling gig pan out in the long term.
Position: Defensive midfield
Bundesliga clubs: Bayern Munich
Years active: 1992-2013
"I was always a calm player," van Bommel once told an Austrian newspaper, before bursting into laughter. "Perhaps I was sometimes just too keen to have the ball, and overstepped the line trying to get it ... my style of play was robust."
Robust is perhaps putting it mildly. It is quite an achievement to play alongside Luiz Gustavo at club level and Nigel de Jong at international level, yet to be regarded as harder than both put together. Indeed, while van Bommel had more to his game than just scything late tackles and off-the-ball rambunctiousness – you don't have a CV reading PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Bayern and AC Milan without being a half-decent player – he was absolutely hard as nails, the sort of man you'd want on your side in a bar fight. Averaging a yellow card once every three Bundesliga games, the Dutchman received nine suspensions in four-and-a-half seasons in Germany.
Incredibly for all those bookings, Frosch was only sent off once in his career, although his chequered disciplinary record is not his only claim to fame. A decent enough defender – best known for his pace and most feared for his precise sliding tackles - to be considered for international selection, when called up to the Germany B-Team in the late 1970s, Frosch replied: "Walter Frosch only plays in either the A-Team, or the World XI." Also a chain smoker, the sweeper once gave an interview after a testimonial with a packet of cigarettes tucked inside his left sock, saying he was brought on so quickly he had no time to put them anywhere else.
Cigarettes were not Frosch's only vice. When asked after his career to name his toughest opponent, he swiftly replied: "the pub". Before a game against Schalke he once enjoyed "a couple of ouzos" and – it was later revealed – 10 litres of beer as a prize for winning a 3am race against friends. He proceeded to mark Erwin Kremers, the Royal Blues' nifty left-winger, out of the game while fighting a hangover.